On Reductionism


“Consider a genus of things Ti, with explanatory conjugates Ci, and a consequent list of possible schemes of recurrence Si. Suppose an aggregate of events Eij that is merely coincidental when considered in light of the rules of all things Ti and their possible schemes of recurrence Si. If the aggregate of events Eij occurs regularly, it is necessary to create a higher viewpoint of some genus of things Tj, with conjugates Ci and Cj, and with schemes of recurrence Sj.

The initial viewpoint is insufficient because it has to regard as coincidental what in fact is regular and predictable. The higher viewpoint is justified , since the conjugates Cj and the schemes of recurrence Sj constitute a system that makes predictable what otherwise would be merely coincidental.

This demonstrates that if the laws of subatomic elements must regard the predictable behaviour of atoms as mere patterns of happy coincidences, then the science of chemistry is autonomous. If the rules of chemistry must regard metabolism and division of cells as happy coincidences, then biology is autonomous of chemistry. If the rules of biology must regard animal behaviour as patterns of coincidences, then sensitive psychology is an autonomous science. If sensitive psychology must regard the operations of mathematicians, actors and carpenters as further patterns of happy coincidences, there is full justification for an autonomous science of rational psychology.

As such nothing that is part of a more complex viewpoint can be explained, other than ascribing it to mere coincidence, by looking at it from a less complex viewpoint. Nor does the more complex viewpoint interfere with the less, except to make predictable and regular, i.e. systemic, what can only be seen as coincidental and random on the less complex view.” – Bernard Lonergan, Insight

It would be interesting to compare the logic underlying reductionism, except there isn’t any. Reductionism is simply a religious belief taken over wholesale into science with no justification or even questioning of its provenance. As such a belief, no amount of reasoning will overcome it.

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